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What Goes Without Saying: Navigating Political Discussion in America, Jaime E. Settle and Taylor N. Carlson

Reviewed by Sarah Shugars
 

Taylor N. Carlson and Jaime E. Settle's new book peels back the curtain on when, where, and how Americans discuss—or avoid discussing—politics. Moving beyond survey questions simply asking about discussion frequency, Carlson and Settle make a compelling argument that a broader approach is needed to understand political talk. A key piece of their argument is that “political discussion is an inherently social behavior” (8): individuals’ sense of self, as well as their relationship to others, guides how they approach, or avoid, political conversations. To better understand this behavior and its consequences, Carlson and Settle introduce the valuable “4D Framework” and use an impressive range of methods and data collection strategies to investigate each of the four Ds: Detection, Decision, Discussion, and Determination.

In Chapter 4, they begin with the process of detection, in which individuals use knowledge, context clues, and instinct to anticipate how a potential conversation might play out. Whereas 27 percent of respondents in their nationally representative survey said they could not or would not try to guess someone's politics, 20 percent said they could tell “just by looking,” and 18 percent said they would use personality, demographic, or other identifiable information. Carlson and Sett

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